The project page for gp32 Linux can be found here.
Hooka: When did you get your gp32?
Toholl: 2 years ago
Hooka: What dev environment do you use?
Toholl: Linux on my laptop.
Hooka: What made you decide to work on the gp32Linux port?
Toholl: Oh, this is a funny story. In my previous company, we started a project of cheap graphical terminal to configure the serial port servers we were manufacturing. We started with an Advance GameBoy, porting ecos system to it; but it was to hardware limited to follow the project. Then my boss shows me a GP32 console he just bought at Lik-Sang, telling me: "try with that console". Do you know lot of company where your boss gives you a game console? But just a few days after, the project was canceled. I just kept the console to my home to work on porting linux for my pleasure.
Hooka: How many people have worked on getting it to the level it's at right now?
Toholl: Only me.
Hooka: What parts did you work on?
Toholl: All. But, I started with the s3c2400 port provided by Samsung, which is a huge work.
Hooka: What other features, ect. do you plan on adding?
Toholl: - a SMC read-write driver (only read-only mode is implemented now)
- a working usb connection with usb devices: keyboard, Ethernet...
Hooka: What is the reason for having linux on the gp32?
Toholl: Many reasons:
- linux is a wonderful filesystem on embedded devices, even as small as gp32
- linux for gp32 is a real good platform for robotics
- you will be able to develop applications for gp32 if you only have linux skills: no more need to be a gp32 hardware/SDK guru
- and many others not yet discovered
Hooka: Doesn't linux take away a little of the processing power, so linux ports (although easier) will be slower than direct ports to gp32?
Toholl: Yes, linux takes away processor power, and direct ports to gp32 will always be speedier. But gp32linux is not a competitor for current game SDK. The goal is to provide the linux environment for gp32 platform for linux developers, not to replace existing SDK.
Hooka: How can you use the serial port code for input? What serial device will let you?
Toholl: I built my own serial adapter with an external cable given by Gamepark and a ST3232 component. So I can connect any serial device, including my laptop with minicom terminal emulator.
Hooka: You mentioned that you want a graphical interface usable with gp32buttons, will this allow people without a serial connector or a chatboard to still use linux on there gp32 and will it reduce the usability for people using only gp32 buttons?
Toholl: I would like for the graphical interface:
- chatboard as the keyboard
- buttons as a mouse replacement
But this is the future.
Hooka: You also mentioned that the gp32 usb is only in device mode but Host mode could be supported, what could be some major benefits of that?
Toholl: There is a problem of power supply: you will need a external 5V power supply to power the usb device (maybe with a usb-hub...). But this can be solved and you will have:
- no more chatboard but real usb keyboard and mouse
- network connection with usb-Ethernet adapter
- usb-serial adapters without need to external cable
- webcam, printer, scanner, TV... No, this is a joke, but...
Hooka: Will you be able to use the gp32linux and a chatboard to program and compile on the go?
Toholl: With the original 8MB SDRAM: no.
With a hacked 32-64 MB SDRAM, possible, but maybe slow.
Hooka: What clockspeed does it run? And will it eventually be able to be switched during running to allow more intense programs to run fast/ full speed?
Toholl: Clockspeed is 133MHz. Switch during running seems difficult. I don't know about it.
Hooka: With the ability to run linux directly off the gp32, will it allow for certain ports to become easier because you won't have to strip out *nix parts?
Toholl: Except for system call, lots of ports depend on additional libraries: graphics, sound... The problem may be the same. I have not enough experience to answer.
Hooka: How do you feel the gp32 port of linux has progressed so far?
Toholl: Can you explain more the question?
Hooka: What I was aiming for was your opinion of how far it has came since you started working on the project, how it's gone from the start to where it's at now
Toholl: I am not happy of the project progress: it goes too slow. I have a wife, two young children, a busy job, so my free time is reduced. And the project is taking 50 times more than it should...
Hooka: Do you ever think the gp32linux will be made into a flashable BIOS for people who want to go straight into linux?
Toholl: It can be easily put into the flash, but you destroy the original gp32 BIOS. I prefer the project to be an add-on of original gp32 console: the console remains unchanged. By the way, do you have the right to change the gp32 BIOS?
Hooka: Do you think that this project will ever reach a level of maturity to become a commonly and enjoyably used OS for the gamepark?
Toholl: I hope so, but as I am alone, project is going slowwwww.
Hooka: Do you know why everyone always wants to port linux to any new electronic device (e.g.: dc, gp32, xbox) is it because the penguin told them to?
Toholl: Yes; like all other developers of linux in electronic devices, we are members of the Holy Penguin sect, whose secret target is to dominate the world by implementing the penguin in all domestic appliances. Or maybe this was an episode of XFiles season 5... More seriously, the main reason for people to spend hours of their time to implement linux everywhere it is possible is: liberty taste. Linux is free in all possible meanings: royalty-free, you have the source code, you can modify it as you want, you have a common development/API environment from a gp32 game console to a multi-processor server. Linux belongs to everyone so nobody can totally control it like some well-known proprietary OS. OK, I stop my proselitism*; I can speak about linux for hours... (Believe in the Holy Penguin, brother, and you will be saved).
Hooka: Do you plan on making/ porting anything to gp32linux once it is finished?
Toholl: I would like to do robotics with gp32linux once finished.
Hooka: If other developers wanted to help with the gp32linux port, what would you suggest to them and what help would really be needed?
Toholl: Yes, as I am developing this alone, so I really need help from other developers to boost the project. Some weeks, I have no free time and the project is stopped until I get free time again. Kernel developers are wanted, and also application developers once the kernel is complete.
Hooka: Do you plan on supporting the 32/64 Meg memory hacks?
Toholl: Why not if someone loan me a hacked one.
Hooka: Will you be able to boot gp32 apps from gp32linux, or will you have to restart first?
Toholl: Well, gp32 apps use the gp32 BIOS API, meanwhile linux applications use linux API (and linux has no relation with the gp32 BIOS). Maybe I can port a gp32 emulator to run it into gp32linux into a gp32 console... No, it is a joke ;-)
Hooka: I have noticed some people mentioning the fact that the chatboard isn't working for them, is there some button you have to press. They said it says error contacting tty (which is what my gp32 says without a chatboard), is it because there chatboards are wired different or something?
Toholl: It is a mistake coming from me; I don’t have a chatboard yet, and I made a package according to what someone told me about the chatboard connection. After receiving extra information, I discovered that the chatboard was completely different of what I was thinking about. So I need to get my chatboard and provide a working driver for it.
A big thanks to Toholl for doing this interview and porting linux to the gp32!
*Hooka’s note; just in case your kinda slow like me proselitism = religious advertisement
?!?* Also thanks to Larry Ewing for his excellent Linux penguin pics!
*Interview finished 23/05/04*